Emmanuel Parish Celebrates 175 years
By Father Angelo Anthony, CPPS
Among the historical treasures to be found in Emmanuel Church in Dayton, one is readily drawn to the beautiful stained glass windows that tell the story of the life of Jesus along the east wall and the life of Mary on the west wall.
Throughout the centuries, stained glass windows have served to nurture the spiritual lives of those who look upon them. In the early years, they were used as teaching tools for those who could not read. Priests at times would use them as a metaphor of how we are to illuminate our lives with the wisdom to be found in their teachings. If we were to tell the story of the 175 year history of Emmanuel Church through stained glass windows, we would begin with the message of the parish name Emmanuel which comes from two Hebrew words meaning “God with us.”
The early years of Emmanuel Parish were filled with many first-time experiences since it was the first Catholic church in the city of Dayton, dedicated on Nov. 26, 1837. There were many needs among the German settlers, and being so faithful to the Gospel and the corporal works of mercy, the parishioners responded with generous hearts.
Telling this story through stained glass windows would certainly include images depicting the influence that Emmanuel Parish had on the founding of the first parochial school in Dayton, the founding of St. Elizabeth Hospital, St. Joseph Orphanage and the University of Dayton. The parish was also the original location of J. Fischer and Bro. Music, which grew to become one of the largest music publishing companies in America.
Emmanuel Church is the mother church of all Catholic churches in Montgomery County, and Catholic churches in Greene, Clark, Champaign, Logan, Hardin, Marion and Madison counties can likewise trace their roots to the towering parent on Franklin Street.
Throughout the history of the parish, the Society of Mary (Marianists) has had a profound influence upon the parishioners, especially in fostering a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. For a large portion of the parish’s history, the Marianists taught in the parochial school, along with the School Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Then, in 1956, Archbishop Karl J. Alter asked the Marianists to assume the pastoral care and administration of the parish, a mission they faithfully fulfilled until 2010. At that time, the decision was made to turn the care of the parish over to the Missionaries of the Precious Blood as part of Pastoral Region 7 in downtown Dayton, which includes Holy Trinity and St. Joseph parishes. The pastoral region is currently served by Precious Blood Fathers Angelo Anthony as pastor and Ken Pleiman as parochial vicar.
A driving force for the parish in the last 25 years was the shepherd’s care of Marianist Father Lee Sciarrotta, who served as pastor from 1988-2010. His Italian spirit and traditional piety guided the faithful in many ways, encouraging outreach to Rwandan refugees, annual Corpus Christi processions, the development of a strong St. Vincent de Paul Conference and opening the doors of the former school to the Dayton Catholic Homeschool community.
On Nov. 18, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr presided over the anniversary Mass, which was filled with traditional sacred music and a procession of servers, Knights of Columbus, Knights of the Holy Sepulcher and many concelebrating priests. One highlight of the liturgy was the presentation of the gifts by Virginia Hicks, a parishioner who was baptized at Emmanuel Church 100 years ago this year.
Looking to the future, the parish desires to be a vibrant faithful presence within the Dayton community letting the light of Christ illuminate our hearts and minds like the beauty of a stain glass window so that we might continue to give witness to the truth of Emmanuel, God with us.